Where to StartWe’d been gym members for years. Members who actually showed up regularly in the months that don’t start with Jan. Jamie would cycle. But that’s all he would do. I worked hard in a group class and alternated between Ride, Jazzercise, Step or Yoga. Then we met with a trainer. The trainer’s personal assessment was eye opening. The good news was that for a non-athlete, I had great flexibility (thank you, yoga). I knew my balance and overall body strength needed a make-over. When the trainer watched me do a squat, he said my gluts were not firing. I thought. ‘What the heck?” That sent me down my usual path: research. There’s probably nothing that motivates me more than to suggest a topic of interest that I know nothing about. And I knew nothing about sport physiology. I had spent my life avoiding work-outs that included squats, pushups and weight training because they are simply uncomfortable. Jamie resisted going to the classes that required complex moves and instead stuck with the simple, repetitive motions of cycling. After learning about the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT), we were ready to move out of our comfort zone. At our gym we found a mixed martial arts workout that employs many of these HIIT concepts. We also added free weights for power and began doing routines that often included over 100 squats. The daily topic of conversation in those first few months was how much we hurt. We set a goal to exercise six days a week. Prior to this year we averaged two to three days per week. Those extra days make an enormous difference.
Lovely SurprisesI kid you not, those first couple of months were hard. Work schedules made it easy to miss workouts. Injuries happened. That’s when a lot of people give up. Don’t be one of those people, we told each other. Then, one day, I was surprised at how I could do the moves without agony. Boxing and kicks. Run. Fast feet. Sprawls with six pushups (from my toes!). More of the same. More of the same. Throw in sledgehammers, tire jumping, more sprawls, mountain climbs, lunges and wrap it all up with a few dozen squats. Never, ever give up. That’s a routine. And I can do it. I read that a physician can tell how close you are to death just by how you stand up after sitting on the floor. After just a few months of this new routine, my doctor won't be putting me on that short list.
Standing TallFocusing on high intensity full body interval training opened my eyes. After all the years of light aerobics, I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to build muscle. I was too old, I didn’t have the right genes, whatever. I’m here to say that self-talk was limiting. Prior to this renewed workout plan, I had the usual age-related skeletal aches of my hips and lower back. Jamie fractured a vertebrae in high school and has lived with back pain most of his life. Both of us feel better and stand taller than we have in decades.
Susan Carey retired in 2017 after a long business career. She writes about her experiences as a vagabond in Europe. Susan shares her gentle life with her husband, Jamie, and two geriatric cats they brought with them from the United States.